Notes: The 2003 Ford Explorer one of our worst vehicles on record. "Avoid like the plague" is putting it lightly.

The 2002-2005 Explorer has a very well-established record of expensive transmission failure at under 100k miles. The Explorer has an enclosed transmission which is typically replaced with a rebuilt transmission at a cost of almost $3,000.

Another common problem for the 2002-2003 Explorer is wheel bearing failure at around 90k miles, with a typical repair bill of $500 to $1000 depending on how many wheel bearings failed.

Adding insult to injury, the 2002-2005 Explorer also has a massive problem with the rear panel cracking. While it's a minor annoyance compared to transmission failure, ironically the crack usually goes right through the Ford logo.


fairly significant
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
19,667 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2003 Ford Explorer body / paint problems

body / paint problem

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2003 Ford Explorer Owner Comments

problem #5

Dec 102006

Explorer 4WD 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 33,333 miles


Paint bubbling up on front of hood on 2003 Ford Explorer.

- Earlysville, VA, USA

problem #4

Apr 152004

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 25,000 miles
: the contact stated that the paint on the edges of the vehicle front hood was bubbled and peeled. The service dealer determined it was caused by corrosion. The manufacturer was contacted and requested the vehicle owner to provide a report on the paint issue from the service dealer. The contact was waiting for the report from the service dealer

- Cass City, MI, USA

problem #3

May 062006

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Explorer limited. Six months into owning this car, bought at approximately. 32,000 miles, I noticed there was bubbling on the hood of car. It was on the front of the hood on both sides above head lamps as well as in the middle (point of the of the hood). Even though this is a manufacturers defect kenny ross in pittsburgh will not work with me in getting repaired. One of their collision men said I was out of warranty. I spoke to the manager he said if it is under warranty not a problem. Then the head guy of the collision department said even if I had a warranty the hood would have been covered only under the 12 months, 12,000 miles warranty ("?"). just the basic run around and they insult your intelligence. The paint is now cracking and peeling off. I noticed the bubbling at about 39,000+ miles and just reported it to Ford may of this 2006, although I did mention it to the guy that sold me the car a year or so ago. In addition I purchased the extended service plan from this so called dealership thinking I was getting an extended warranty, which was implied, only to find out that the extended warranty and the extended service are two different things. Buyer beware but they should have to disclose the difference. Why would I buy an esp when I can extend the warranty for just about the same price.

- Pittsburgh, PA, USA

problem #2

Apr 272006

Explorer 4WD 8-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 40,000 miles
: the contact stated that the vehicle's paint looked bubbly like a blister on both the driver and passenger sides of the hood. The corrosion was located on the side of the hood closest to the head lights. The vehicle was taken to an independent repair shop who determined that it was a manufacturer's defect. The manufacturer directed the contact to take the vehicle to an authorized dealer for repair. The dealer refused to repair the defect at no charge because the vehicle's warranty had expired. There was a vast amount of information on the manufacturer's website regarding the defective paint which was observed by the contact. The vehicle was not involved in a crash or fire.

- Harrison, NJ, USA

problem #1

Sep 082003


  • miles
While driving hood flew up which impaired visibility.

- Dedham, MA, USA

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